Grandma Servant

16 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: My mother-in-law and I used to plan and host the holiday meals (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.) for the family. She passed away ten years ago. Since then, I’ve been holding the dinners myself in my home, but it’s become a case of too much success. The family is growing as grandchildren are getting married and having kids of their own. The problem is, nobody has reached out to help me. I do all the planning, food shopping, cooking, setting the table(s), and the entire clean-up. The whole family has a great time and sits around or leaves the table without doing anything. I guess I’m giving the impression that I want to do all of it, but I really can use some serious help. I’m getting older, and the effort is getting to be too much for me. The family loves the gatherings, and I don’t want to spoil it for them.

–Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

If there ever was a time to speak up, this is it. Nothing complicated here. You need to enlist the most agreeable of your relatives to spread the word. Sit down in person (don’t do this via e-mail or phone) and lay out your case the way you explained it to Ms. L.B.  You need to decide beforehand if you want to continue having the gatherings at your home because this will determine the division of labor. Your aim is to have many hands at work – menu planning, food shopping, cooking in your kitchen, setting the table and cleaning up. Even the younger kids can help set the table and fold napkins. And your sons, sons-in-law and grandsons should be doing the heavy lifting, clearing the table, washing roasting pans, etc. By no means should the work be the exclusive province of the women in the family. You want help for Christmas, so don’t delay. Invite the most amenable of your children and grandchildren for dessert and say something like this:

My dear family, I have something to tell you. The family is growing, as grandchildren are getting married and having kids. And, I’m getting older. Since Momma Elaine passed away, I’ve been handling all the family holiday dinners. But they’re getting to be too much for me to do alone. I need your help. In fact, I need everyone’s help, starting with the menu planning and continuing to the food shopping, cooking, setting the table and cleaning up. I’ll still have the dinners here, but I want you to work with me to assign duties to everyone, starting with Christmas dinner this year. We’ll try to keep it informal, but I need you to spread the word that everyone – including young ones and the men and boys in the family – will be expected to pitch in. We always have such a wonderful time at our dinners, and we’re lucky to be a close-knit family. I want the tradition to continue, but I won’t be able to do it without everyone’s help.


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